By Staff Sgt. Roger Morris
Staff Sgt. Roger Morris is a shift worker in the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center as well as a member of the Woodmen Valley Chapel Disaster Response Team. Following the Moore, Okla., disaster, Moore and a small group of friends drove supplies from the Colorado Springs area to the disaster site. The following is his account in his own words.
I remember saying “wow” but in my heart I was devastated. As my wife and I sat on the couch Monday, May 20, 2013 we felt more and more sick as she pointed out places in her life that she had grown up seeing on a regular bases. A movie theater, car wash, restaurants, hospitals and schools all destroyed and nothing spared that was n the path of the EF-5 Tornado that ripped through Moore, Okla., just two hours earlier.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Roger Morris, an Air Domain Tech in the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center, prepares to deliver supplies and other equipment to the tornado devastated areas of Moore, Okla.
I could hear a small voice in my head saying “I wish I could do something,” and I didn’t realize that all it would take is my wife saying to me “We need to do something!” and we did. We immediately decided what we were going to do and it seemed all too easy. I jumped off the couch and started calling a good friend of mine who worked at Fort Carson as my wife started blasting on Facebook that we were asking for people to donate supplies because we were heading to Moore in three days to deliver goods. After my buddy had responded yes and plans were being made, I immediately emailed members of the Woodmen Valley Chapel Disaster Response Team for support. Over the next three days with the support of the DRT, fellow military brothers and sisters and the Colorado Springs community, we had collected over 5,000 lbs of supplies that included: water/Gatorade, dry food, baby food/formula, clothes and toys. Someone even donated a printer/fax/scanner combo. All in all I believe we had about $6,000 worth of goods.
As my buddy and I left Peterson AFB, I knew we had a long journey ahead of us but I also knew I was determined to see though what my wife and I had started. Twelve hours of driving and a kolache and with a bit of grumbling due to driving without air conditioning our perseverance paid off. The Bethal House in Edmond, Okla., was our drop off point. The location was perfect because it was out of the way of the disaster area and made it easy for us to get in and out without being in the way of clean up and first responders. The couple that worked at the Bethal House was extremely grateful for how much was donated. They told me support had been arriving from all over the U.S. to help.
After an hour or so of sweat and some much needed work (sitting for 12 hours sucks!) we headed into Moore. Life seemed to be unscathed like nothing ever happened until we exited I-35 south and turned onto 4th Street and then it hit us like a bomb shell. I do not believe anything could have prepared us for what we saw in the next few hours. Everything you see on the news times 10 is repeatedly hitting you in the face. House after house, business after business, person after person; all demolished by nature’s most violent and unpredictable storms.
It is hard to imagine life continuing after seeing so much devastation. That’s when I changed my focus, I wanted to see the good that was coming out of this and it was there. Organized DRTs and first responders like Convoy for Hope, Moore- Oklahoma Tornado Recovery, Samaritans Purse, The Salvation Army and FEMA were all there; handing out water and supplies and recovery teams. It seemed as if all of the United States was there to help and of course they would, this is the Heartland of America. What was most heart-filled was seeing neighbors help neighbors. I imagined neighbors who once hated each other grabbing gloves and shovels and helping each other. Churches offering more than just Sunday morning service and the local fast food place making pizzas for all in the area. At one moment we saw a group of people grilling hotdogs and a sign that said free for all, that put a smile on my face. As the day drew on my buddy and I could see the blood, sweat and tears of the people of Moore and we knew, with faith, team work and a little time all would be OK.
Driving back was a little bitter-sweet. We wanted to stay and help but we had completed the mission and we had families and jobs to attend to back home. We headed west and then up through Texas, New Mexico and then north into Colorado. Every now and then, heading in the opposite direction, we would see a pick-up truck hauling a trailer and I couldn’t help to think they were heading to Moore, Okla.